The eight members of a Louisiana Boy Scout troop stranded since Sunday by high water while hiking along a trail in the Little Missouri River watershed in the Ouachita National Forest have been rescued. State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said a National Guard helicopter spotted the six Scouts and two adult leaders early this morning. The crew lifted them out — all in good shape — about 6:30 a.m. this morning and took them to meet parents who'd gathered nearby.
UPDATE: The Scouts are heading home to Lafayette. A scraped knee seems to be the extent of damage. The troop was warm, dry and hungry when picked up.
ON THE JUMP: Capt. Christopher Heathscott, who also took photos, recounts the mission.
FROM THE NATIONAL GUARD
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ark.- A helicopter and crew from the Arkansas Army
National Guard found and rescued a group of six Boy Scouts and their two
adult leaders from a remote area of the Ouachita National Forest in
southwest Arkansas this morning.
The Boy Scout group from Louisiana had been on a weekend camping trip when
heavy rains and storms across the state caused flooding of area streams and
cut the group off from their trailhead. The rugged terrain, heavy weather
and dense forest also cut them off from any type of communication signal to
contact authorities or families.
The Guard helicopter piloted by Chief Warrant Officer David Specht and
co-piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Todd Adams was requested around 3 p.m.
on Monday, May 2, to support a search operation by local law enforcement
officials near the Albert Pike Camp Ground in Montgomery County. Inclement
weather and heavy rains had hampered search operations and deterred
helicopter flights through the mountainous area.
The Guard crew consulted weather information and saw that rains and high
winds were to clear the search area late in the evening on Monday, so they
opted to do a late night search using night vision equipment and the
helicopter's array of sensors to locate the stranded campers.
After locating the team of scouts, the Guard crew dropped two military
duffle bags containing food, water, blankets, ponchos, flashlights and a
communications radio to sustain the team until morning because it was too
dangerous to attempt a landing in the heavily wooded are in the dark.
After refueling and waiting for daylight, the Guard crew returned to the
site where they campers were just before 7 a.m. on Tuesday, and found a very
narrow landing site along a stream and were able to pick up the campers and
their gear and reunite them with some family members waiting at the search
area command center.
Specht said the most difficult portion of the rescue was finding a location
near the scouts to land the helicopter.
"Getting in to them was tough. We had to snake down into a narrow area
right along a stream and try to stay out of the water at the same time,"
The crewmen said the rewarding part of the mission was getting the campers
out to reunite with their families who were very anxious, since they had not
had contact with the missing scouts since Saturday.
"I was pretty nervous when we first touched down, not knowing what the fate
of any of the scouts were. if any were injured or worse. Of course you
never want anything to happen to kids if it can be prevented. So I felt a
lot better when we made contact with one of the leaders and he gave us the
thumbs up," said Adams.
Specht, who has been flying with the National Guard for over 16 years, said
this was not his first rescue mission, however it was the first time he had
actually flown a rescue mission where he picked up individuals.
"Normally we don't do the pick up. Instead we guide ground crews in to the
location to do the rescue and move people to safety. This situation was
unique because the water had cut them off from any kind of ground movement,"
"We fly a lot together, so that helps us know what each other is thinking
and doing when we get in tight spots and situations that require us to
communicate precisely on what we each need to do to maneuver the aircraft
safely," said Adams.
Once the mission was complete Guard officials reviewed the video of the
mission and lauded both Specht and Adams for their skill and precision in
operating their LUH-72 helicopter in the narrow recesses of the stream
clearing in order to pick up the stranded scouts.